Background to the coffee industry
Coffee, as a commodity, has continued to play a leading role in the economy of Uganda, (contributing between 20 – 30% of the foreign exchange earnings), despite the vigorous efforts by Government to diversify the economy. Though large scale coffee producers are gradually emerging, the coffee sub-sector is almost entirely dependent on about 500,000 smallholder farmers, 90 percent of whose average farm size ranges from less than 0.5 to 2.5 hectares. The coffee industry employs over 3.5 million families through coffee related activities. The policy of the Uganda Government on coffee production since liberalization in 1991 had been (and still is) to gradually replace the old, diseased coffee trees with new, genetically pure and high yielding coffee varieties at a rate of 5% per annum for Robusta and 2% per annum for Arabica for 20 years. This was expected to replace all old, unproductive coffee trees and optimise foreign exchange earnings to the country and payments to farmers.

Coffee varieties grown in Uganda
Uganda receives rainfall ranging between 1,500 and 2,300 mm per year. Two types of coffee: Arabica and Robusta are grown in the ratio of 1: 4. Robusta Coffee is grown in the low altitude areas of Central, Eastern, Western and South Eastern Uganda up to 1,200 metres above sea level while Arabica coffee is grown in the highland areas on the slopes of Mount Elgon in the East and Mt. Rwenzori and Mt. Muhabura in the South Western Region (1500-2,300 m above sea level). Unlike Robusta whose native habitat is the Lake Victoria Crescent, Arabica coffee is an introduced crop originating from Ethiopia. Arabica coffee is more competitive on the international market because of its superior quality. Uganda Robusta too has intrinsic quality attributes which even attracts a premium on the international coffee market. On the other hand, the new Arabica variety, (Tuzza), commonly referred to as catimors perform well in low altitude areas of the country predominantly zoned for Robusta coffee, (1,200-1,500 m). At high altitude this variety succumbs to Coffee Berry Disease (CBD) and yields are poor. The origin of catimor arabica is Papua New Guinea and the variety is known for its high yielding capabilities, drought resistance and tolerance to diseases. Liquoring profiling is still going on in various medium altitude areas with the ultimate aim of releasing the variety in the near future by the Coffee Research Centre. UCDA is collaborating with the Centre and other stakeholders to implement this. The South Western region has produced a good quality cup of the Tuzza variety.

The Coffee Farming Systems
Uganda’s average farm holding sizes are in the range of 0.5 and 2.5 hectares. Coffee is mostly grown in mixed stand where it is intercropped with food crops such as bananas and beans which ensure households’ food security. It is also grown among shade trees that result into sustainable coffee production, (social, economic and environment), with minimal use of agro-chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides). Coffee farmers in Uganda use the low input system and households strongly rely on family labour.
Major Challenges to the Coffee Industry
i. Low production and productivity levels:
Most of the coffee in Uganda was planted over 50 years ago and hence has surpassed its biological optimum potential and therefore not economically productive, (the economic life of a coffee tree is 40 calendar years);
The old trees coupled with poorly managed and leached soils have led to very low yields per unit area, (low productivity) and hence lower quality. Under medium management level, the yield of Robusta and Arabica is 500 kg/ha and 750 kg/ha of clean and parchment coffee respectively;
The low input system used by most farmers is less profitable especially during this era where there is scarcity of land as a result of the population pressure and consequently land fragmentation. Secondly, farmers have not put to optimum use the land and labour available to them in order to make profits. Consequently, low volumes of coffee exports, (oscillating between 2 to 3 million 60 kg bags per year), have been realized over the years;
ii. Infection of Coffee by the Coffee Wilt Disease, (CWD)
Since 1993 the coffee industry has been attacked by the (CWD). The Coffee Wilt Disease has also been identified in all the Robusta coffee growing districts. It is estimated that 50 percent (slightly over 150 million trees) of the overall Robusta coffee tree population has been infected by the disease and died. The effect of the disease will therefore have a wider impact on the Ugandan population through declines in incomes and reduced capacity by farmers to earn and purchase essentials;
iii. Inadequate Management Capacity
The coffee industry has got many new entrants, (e.g. Youth, women and farmers in new coffee areas), who have not yet grasped the concept of coffee husbandry and coffee nursery work. In addition, the capacity to contain the Coffee Wilt Disease is still limited; and

iv. Volatile World Market Coffee Prices
The unstable coffee prices on the world market have in the past discouraged coffee farmers from planting more coffee and also to abandon some of the good agricultural practices. However, in spite of low world prices, coffee production remains competitive especially for Uganda which is a low cost producer with low marginal cost of production, compared to other enterprises. It therefore pays for smallholders to remain in coffee production. A rise in farmgate prices in the last two years (2005, 2006 & 2007) has stimulated demand for coffee plantlets from farmers that is likely to result into higher productivity and increased farm incomes.
Recent initiatives in support of coffee replanting
The recent Government strategy has mainly been coffee replanting in Coffee Wilt Disease, (CWD) affected areas, replacement of the aged unproductive trees and supporting introduction of commercial coffee production in new areas of Northern, North Eastern Uganda and the districts of Kisoro and Kabale. Enhancement of coffee productivity at farm level is also being done in order to ensure improvement in coffee farmers’ household income. The Coffee Production campaign 2006-2015 spearheaded by UCDA and Café Africa is also geared at replacing the acreage lost due to diseases including CWD. In this respect, two stakeholders’ meetings were held in June and September 2006 to address the declining coffee volumes. Four thematic areas being addressed in the campaign are: Research; Extension; Inputs and Credit and Farmer Organisations.
A variety of symptoms are observed on both young and old Robusta coffee trees as well as on well managed and poorly managed Robusta coffee trees. The symptoms include wilting starting with one shoot, yellowing, blackening of the stems and eventual drying up of the entire coffee bush. Uganda’s Arabica coffee currently seems not to be affected by the Coffee Wilt Disease.
Prevention and Control of Coffee Wilt Disease (CWD)
To avoid CWD a farmer is supposed to prevent any kind of wounding. For example,

  • When slashing to control weeds
  • When hoeing to control weeds
    When applying fertilizer or manure around feeder root
    When grazing animals around coffee trees – goats do eat the bark of coffee stems.
    Avoiding use of coffee wilt disease infected trees
    As fencing or staking
    As fire wood Giving coffee trees adequate nutrition through applying the following prevents them from CWD
    Inorganic fertilizers,
    Mulch to conserve moisture and soil nutrients. Control measures aimed at containing the spread of the disease include phytosanitation of the coffee fields and application of quarantine measures. For example,
    Timely uprooting and burning of newly CWD infected coffee trees,
    Avoiding use of unclean planting materials,
    Avoiding use of coffee husks as mulch,
    Avoiding and adhering to strictly no movement of coffee materials across districts,
    Ensuring regular field inspection to identify disease symptoms.
    Agronomic Practices on sustainable coffees
    The following are the most recommended management practices fro the sustainable coffees:
    Mulching the top soil with dried or rotten pant residues conserving moisture and nutrients.Ÿ
    Use of decomposed animal manure – fresh or undecomposed manure would cause contamination,
    Intercropping with leguminous crops such as beans that would return nitrogen to the soil for the utilization of the coffee trees,
    Cultural weed control which involves clean weeding (hoeing) or slashing. It is neither practicable to clean weed during the rains, nor is it advisable to attempt to do so because of the risk of soil erosion. Slashing is therefore recommended. Towards the end of the rains, weed begin to compete with the coffee for the diminishing moisture, and clean weeding should be maintained from them until the middle of the next rains.
    Terracing to reduce or stop soil erosion and run-offs that would otherwise carry chemical residues from one farm to another.
    Shade and windbreaks – shade and windbreaks can greatly accelerate the growth of yound coffee. Some of the species which have been widely used for shade include the following legumicous trees:- Albizzia, Gliricidia, Acasia, Leucaena, Calliandra, Erythrina, Inga spp. The non-leguminous shade trees include Grevillea robusta and Ficus.
    There are six recommended Robusta coffee clones, which are maintained at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). The six clones have been used to establish “Mother Gardens” in various parts of the country. The six clones are: 1s/2; 1s/3; 1s/6; 223/32; 257s/53; 258s/24(0). These clones were selected for being high yielding (at least 2 tones per hectare of clean coffee per year. Have heavy beans (100 beans weigh over 19 grams), and have large beans (over 40% or more clean retained in a screen 18 (18/64)). Plating of Mother Garden Source of material It is absolutely essential to obtain clearly identified and labeled cuttings form Kawanda and other established nurseries for the establishment of mother gardens. This will ensure that every mother garden is an exact copy of the original material at Kawanda and contains the six recommended clones. Spacing Mother bushes are planted at a spacing of 1 m x 1 m. As the trees are not allowed to grow large, this ensures maximum utilization of land.
    Hole preparation
    Planting holes should be dug after it has rained prior to planting. As the soils would still be moist, digging is made easier. The size of the hole is 45 cm square at the top, and is 45 cm deep. In digging the sub-soil should be heaped to one side of the hole, and the top-soil to the other. The hole is left to weather for about 2-3 months.
    Refilling of planting holes
    At the onset of the rains, the holes are filled, the top soil going in first. This is followed by the sub-soil mixed with one tin of well-rotted manure or compost for each hole.
    Planting the cuttings
    Planting is carried out after about 50 mm of rain has fallen to ensure adequate moisture penetration down the soil profile. A hole is made in the soil mound of a size to take the base of the cutting. The polythene sleeve is carefully removed ensuring that the soil with roots does not disintegrate. The plant is carefully introduced into the hole, then soil is added around it to ensure that it rests firmly in the ground. If there has not been rain, the newly planted trees should be watered. It is important, for purposes of avoiding mistakes during harvesting of cuttings, to plant each clone in its own line, and ensure every line is labeled with the clone number.
    Shading the New Plant
    The young plant should be protected from the sum by a temporary shade, preferably of palm trees or banana leaves. The shade should be removed when the new plant is showing new growth.
    Fertilizer Application
    Application of 60 gm of NPK fertilizer per tree after planting will accelerate the growth of the plant and subsequent production of suckers. The fertilizer is applied in a band around the base of the tree when the rains (200-300 mm per month) it may be beneficial to split the fertilizer into two does of 30 gm each, separated by 3 to 4 weeks. Where compound fertilizer is not available, straight nitrogen may be used e.g. ASN for alkaline soils and CAN for acidic soils at the same rate as recommended for NPK.
    Ÿ Maintenance and Training of Mother Bushes
    The mother garden should be maintained in a weed-free condition at all times. After 3 months, when the newly planted are firm in the fields, all primaries should be removed, the plant bent over in the tree line and pegged down. It is important not to remove the apical growing point at this stage. A useful technique is to tie one plant to the base of the next (preferably in an East-West direction), while for the last plant in a line a tree peg would be used. The bending over induces dormant buds in the leaf axils to develop into suckers when the main stem has reached the length of 1 meter (after one year’s growth), the main growing point should be capped to reduce apical dominance. The first crop of suckers is taken for cuttings some six months after planting, when the suckers are about 35 cm long (with 3 to 4 nodes) and are of pencil thickness.
    The production of clonal coffee cuttings consists of two distinct stages:
    è Placing a cutting in a suitable medium conducive to development of roots and shoots (rooting medium), and
    è The growth and conditioning of the cutting with shoots and roots in another medium (potting medium) to the point where it can be planted in the field as a new coffee plant.Currently, there are two procedures available:
    è Either rooting the cuttings in a polypot which consists of a lower 2/3 of potting medium and an upper 1/3 of rooting medium; or in a polypot initially filled with potting medium but with a central cylinder of 4 cm width x 8 cm depth cored out and filled with rooting medium; or
    è Rooting the cutting in a propagation bin and then transferring them to a polypot filled entirely with potting medium.
    Ÿ Composition of Rooting Medium
    This is a loose, aerated medium but with adequate moisture retention to encourage formation of “callus”, which is the first biological process prior to formation of roots. The medium consists of two parts of fine sawdust and one part of the lake sand. The saw dust needs to be matured, for it is possible for fresh sawdust to release chemicals which are toxic to cuttings; fresh sawdust can also ferment in the pots. Fresh saw dust also attracts termites that can destroy the cuttings.
    Ÿ Composition of Potting Mixture
    The potting mixture takes over the nutrition of the cutting after the roots and shoots have developed. It should therefore be adequately supplied with nutrients suitable media are:
    è black organic forest soil or
    è a mixture of two parts of garden top soil and 3 parts of compost or manure; It is preferable that the mixture be wetted and sterilized by heat to destroy disease organisms and weed seeds.
    Ÿ Filling Polypots
    Polypots are available is a size of 21-61 mm high and 12-16 mm diameter. The posts should have two rows of perforations at the lower end, to facilitate drainage. Where rooting and potting occur in the same polypot, two thirds of the pot is filled with potting mixture. An alternative promising method of filling the polypots is the following: Filling the lower 2/3 of the pot with potting mixture as usual, then place a stick in the centre of the pot, touching the medium at the lower part and sticking above the top of the polypot. Continue adding the potting medium to the top of the top around the stick. Carefully withdraw the stick and fill the space thereby created with rooting medium, well packed down. This method uses much less rooting medium, and has been observed to lead to faster shooting because more roots reach the potting medium more quickly. The pots are liberally watered by the day before placement of the cuttings
    Ÿ Construction And Set-Up Of Propagation Cages For Cuttings
    The cages are constructed in such a way that they can accommodate eight filled pots across, which takes up approximately 90 cm. The height of the cage at the side should be 30 cm, while at the middle it should be 45 cm.
    Ÿ Harvesting Suckers >From The Mother Garden For Cutting
    Two weeks before the day fo harvesting, the suckers should be capped by removing the apical growing point. Any primary growth along the length of the sucker is also removed. Harvesting of suckers should be carried out in the morning and completed by 0900 hours, before it becomes too hot, and the whole operation of harvesting and potting should be completed before the cuttings begin to wilt.
    Ÿ Preparation and Placement of Cuttings
    A cutting consists of one pair of leaves and the internodal wood below it. Where growth has been good, it may be possible to obtain 2 or 3 cuttings from one sucker, each with a pair of leaves and green, pencil-thick flexible semi-hard wood. The semi-hard wood sucker stem will be rectangular in cross section, whereas the unwanted hard stems are round in cross section. The cutting is trimmed at an angle of 45 degrees above the leaf axil to facilitate moisture drainage and prevent terminal infection, and at the same angle 4 to 6 cm below the leaf axil (this ensures maximum callus formation for root development). Two-thirds of each leaf is them trimmed off, and it hormone is to be used; the cut stem is dipped briefly in the rooting powder such as Seradix. The cutting is then placed in the rooting medium, ensuring firm contact with the medium, and pushed into the medium to the point where the leaf petioles (stems) just rest on top of the medium. In the case of polypots, the pots are immediately placed in a polythene-covered ‘propagation cage”, watered thoroughly, and the covering polythene sheet well secured all round to make a moisture tight seal. Water again only when the condensation on the inside of the polythene begins to disappear. Do not over water, as this will lead to rotting and death of the cuttings.
    Ÿ Propagation Bins
    The propagation bins are constructed of bricks and are divided into bins or tubs of approximately 1 meter by 1 meter. The bottom of the bin is filled with stones and covered with a layer of rooting medium some 200 cm deep.
    Ÿ Essential conditions for rooting cuttings
    The two environmental conditions which greatly influence the success of rooting/shooting are:
    è level of shading, i.e. proportion of day light allowed by the shading material to reach the cuttings;
    è level of humidity (and indirectly, temperature).
    Ÿ Fertilizer use in the nursery
    In case where the potting medium is not very rich, a weekly application of a balanced foliar feed is recommended. It is essential to adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid scorching of leaves.
    Ÿ Hardening of cuttings
    Prior to removal of the cuttings from the polythene cages there should be a two weeks period of acclimatization. For one week, the polythene should be rolled back except between 11.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. For the second week the polythene should be open all the time.
    Ÿ Seed Preparation
    è Always acquire seed from Coffee Research Institute (CORI), Kituza, UCDA Headquarters, District Coffee Coordinators (DCCs) or District Agricultural Office.
    è This seed should not be kept for a long time in your house because coffee loses viability quickly.
    è Prepare seed by removing the parchment using hands from each individual seed.
    è In some cases, if the nursery bed is prepared, it is advisable to sock the seeds in water overnight prior to sowing.
    Ÿ Site Selection
    è Select a site that is fertile;
    è The site should be near a permanent source of water
    è The site should be in easy reach for supervision, transportation and security against straying animals.
    Ÿ Bed Making
    è The dimensions of a single bed are 1.2 meters wide and 10 meters long;
    è The height of the bed (which may also be considered as depth) is 60 cm.
    è Treat the seed bed with pesticides such as Furadan or Marshal to control nematodes and cut worms before you sow the seeds using recommended rates of the chemical.
    Ÿ Sowing
    è Sow seeds in a nursery bed in rows at a spacing of 5 cm between rows and 5 cm between plants.
    è Cover with a thin layer of about 1 cm of soil.
    è Place a thin layer of dry grass mulch to keep the soil moist.
    Ÿ Watering
    è Water using a watering can on alternate days for the first two weeks and then reduce to once of twice a week.
    è The seedling should emerge 6-8 weeks later and are ready for pricking out into polythene bags when they have one pair of true leaves.
    è Too much water will cause logging and the seedlings will suffer from dumping off, will rot at collar base and die.It is recommended that for every 2 kgs of seed sown, it requires 5 litres of water in a dry season or 2 litres in rainy days per week.